Wembley City will create a bustling new town centre

Building work on the new town centre has strated in earnest

Wembley’s skyline is changing.

Diggers are busy churning the earth, scaffolding hangs from half built buildings, and cranes are lifting heavy building blocks.

This is Wembley City, one of the largest regeneration schemes in the country.

The project, which was launched by developers Quintain in 2002, covers some 14 acres, and will create 4,300 new homes, an 85 store designer shopping outlet, a large Hilton hotel, Brent Council’s new civic centre, and 660 student accommodation.

Many of these developments will be dotted along a new boulevard which will begin at Wembley Park, run southward in parallel with Olympic Way, before finally joining up with Wembley Stadium overground station.

The aim is to create a new neighbourhood which will attract investment from outside Brent, and provide new amenities for new and existing residents.

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Ben Giddens, development director at Quintain, said: “We want to build a thriving, new mixed use community in Brent which will be a central retail and leisure destination.”

That plan received a boost in May when Brent Council agreed to relocate the town hall from Forty Lane, to Wembley City.

As Mr Giddens explains: “We are very excited about that site because it really makes a statement about our aspirations for Wembley City and says to the world that this is the heart of Brent.”

The designer mall is due to open in 2013, and while Quintain are remaining tight lipped until Spring about which retailers have signed up, they have confirmed that Cineworld will be operating a nine screen cinema out of it.

While a 4-star Hilton hotel will open in time for the Olympics in 2012 and a large, student accommodation block next door will open that autumn.

And they also plan to improve Olympic Way, the sweeping pathway which leads up to Wembley Stadium.

The area is being developed site by site, with the aim that sales from the western area will fund further work to the north.

Quintain says the first stage of the development should be completed in 2013, and have submitted a further application to begin stage two, and develop the north west part of the new city, where the civic centre will be.

The economic slump has impacted on the project, and developers Quintain shifted the initial building focus away from housing to the retail sites, which helped to protect the development from the fall in residential property prices.

As Mr Giddens explains: “Like all property developers it did affect us. But we shifted our strategy and are confident that Wembley’s unique offering will attract people.”

As part of the conditions its planning permission the development must provide community facilities, affordable housing, and money towards health and education facilities.

While no new school will be built in the area, Quintain is funding school expansions elsewhere in Brent, and will build a doctor’s surgery. And in a bid to add some ‘animation’ to the area, they are building new, five a side football pitches beside the stadium.

Around a quarter of the development’s builders live locally, and many have been teamed up with their job through the Wembley Works Portal – a collaboration between Quintain, Brent Council and the College of North West London which places people in training or looking for work with the project.

“That relationship has been really strong”, explains Mr Giddens. “We are very mindful that this regeneration must incorporate, and benefit, Wembley’s existing communities.”

All the homes are ‘tenure blind’, meaning that the look and feel of the affordable housing is identical to the full price properties. In the first stage, some 38 per cent of the housing built will be affordable.

Quintain is justifiably proud of its environmental credentials. All the homes will be kitted out with ‘Velocity 1’ communal recycling bins, and recycling rates in their first two residential blocks Forum House and Quadrant House, stand at around 50 per cent.

Wembley City is not the only large scale regeneration project in London. In the east, the Thames Gateway is being transformed into business hub, and Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham have all benefitted from the investment the 2012 Games has attracted to the Olympic boroughs.

But Mr Giddens says these projects shouldn’t be viewed as competition to Wembley City.

He said: “Our site is unique. We are right beside the national stadium and arena, so there aren’t comparable schemes in that regard. We haven’t tried to mirror or mimic others.

“This is a design that has been sculpted to these unique assets already on site.”